In a wide-ranging meeting with various Arsenal fans, Josh Kroenke admitted that the trust between KSE and the fans of the club is completely gone. And yet, his conversation with fans on Thursday—which should’ve been the beginning of a process of apology and regret—really did not do that.
Football.London has the entire transcript, which I encourage you to read. I’ve picked out some choice sections that point at how decisions are made and the future of the Kroenke’s governance of the club.
M: Do you still consider yourselves fit and proper owners and custodians of our club? Are KSE fully aware that the vast majority of the fanbase believe that you’re not fit to the owners of our football club? Do you believe that this damage is repairable or will KSE be looking to sell their shares in Arsenal?
JK: I still believe we’re fit to carry on in our positions as custodians of Arsenal. We were put in a very difficult position by forces outside of the club. To go back to those original questions that we got wrong, those were the questions we asked ourselves and that’s why I’m here to try and piece everything back together over time. I’m not asking for your trust immediately. We have the same plans for summer as we had a few weeks ago, and I’m so excited about those. I might be met with distrust and skepticism but over time I hope to re-establish a relationship with our supporter groups and show them we’re capable of leading the club forward.
“We were put in a very difficult position by forces outside of the club”—what forces? The other big clubs? Again, Arsenal are going with the line that they were forced to join the Super League. But they weren’t. PSG did not. Bayern Munich did not. Arsenal were not the first English club to depart the Super League. All of which tracks with the reporting that Stan Kroenke was pushing for this—and afterall, he was going to be a vice-chairman. Bruce Buck, of Chelsea, was not going to be.
As for being excited about summer plans...the last time that happened, the Head of Football engaged in a deal that [REDACTED].
BG: You keep saying that ‘we hear you fans’. You didn’t speak to us in the first place about this. We will be lobbying government to get fan representation at boardroom level. What is your view on that? Who has made this ridiculous decision? Was it you, your father or Lord Harris, or the board?
JK: It was the board. As a club we made the decision, we kept asking ourselves very difficult questions. The two main ones which I’ve gone over repeatedly. It was a group decision. We wanted everyone’s opinion to see what everybody thought. I want to interact more in a more meaningful way whether that’s at board level or in a Fans’ Forum. This has been an education unto itself of the power of football fans across the world and the power of Arsenal fans, which is spectacular to see honestly.
The Arsenal Board consists of the following members: Lord Harris of Peckham, Stan Kroenke, Josh Kroenke, and the non-executive director Tim Lewis, appointed by...Stan and Josh Kroenke. The board does not exist. The board is KSE. If KSE genuinely want to re-establish trust, they should begin by admitting who made these decisions.
BG: What are your feelings on fan groups or a representative of the fans being at board level?
JK: Hm, it’s a very tough one. I think there’s pros and there’s cons. In the wake of everything that’s transpired in the last few days we’re going to be asking ourselves many questions, including the one you just asked me. So while I’m not giving you a yes or no answer, it’s definitely something that’s up for discussion.
I too love to say things without saying anything.
B: One quick way you could build trust with fans is to show the meeting notes from these things. Josh, I keep saying to myself if I had the opportunity to run Arsenal Football Club, there are millions of people in the world who would look at you like a hero. Why don’t you get involved with us and make this club great again? You have got an opportunity that noone else has. You need to do something for us. There’s going to be 20,000 fans outside the stadium tomorrow, which is all down to a terrible decision for financial gain. What about the 360 other clubs in the English league? Is that the Arsenal way? We leave them behind? I’m disgusted.
JK: All I can say is you have my word. You’re going to be seeing a lot of me as you have hopefully the last few years more and more over in London with the club. To the point I made earlier, I know the trust has been shredded but you’re going to be seeing my try to rebuild that both now and in the future. Hopefully whether that’s in many years time or sitting in person having a pint, I prefer my interactions to be in person. I made a point about my conversations being delayed because of the pandemic and that’s definitely because I do have a preference of meeting people in person. You will be seeing me more, I look forward to interacting with you guys and attempting to rebuild that trust.
How many times has Josh Kroenke met with fans, in person? I think it might’ve been once. I know the last year has felt like twenty years, but it’s only been thirteen months. The Kroenkes have been majority shareholders since April 2011.
This was an exceptionally hostile meeting. That should be really come as no surprise. This is the first time Josh Kroenke has spoken to this particular group of fans. There is no longer an AGM where the fans have to be heard by Stan Kroenke. There is also no longer a person bigger than the owners to take the bullet, and make everyone feel better, like Arsène Wenger used to.
The issues at play here are not only a result of Arsenal’s disastrous attempt to join the Super League, causing many fans days of distress. To be sure, that is a major issue. This club likes to speak of its tradition, class, and values. This club made 55 people redundant during a pandemic citing economic difficulties while secretly trying to get a £300m payday. Those ideas of tradition, class; those are in the mud under this ownership group.
But the issues at play here are a result of the KSE “custodianship” of this football club. Since Stan Kroenke took full control of Arsenal, the club have finished 3rd, 4th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 5th, 8th, and are now in 9th. It is also not just an issue of investment. The Kroenkes actually have invested a decent amount of money. They just invest in the wrong things; they hire the wrong people; they let the wrong people make the wrong decisions for too long.
It’s not that the Kroenkes don’t interfere; it’s that the physical difference between Camp Kroenke in Texas and Arsenal in London allows Arsenal to be out of sight and out of mind. And that means that KSE are painfully out of touch; not only with what the fans want, but with what’s actively happening on the ground. And rather than mending fences today, Josh Kroenke’s comments reinforce KSE’s single biggest issue: they simply just do not get it and have no feel for the league, sport, and global fan culture that they invested in when they bought into Arsenal. There is no way for the Kroenkes to rebuild trust. KSE had already mostly burned bridges at Arsenal; their actions over the last week have been to destroy any remaining foundations, and the only resolution will be for KSE to be removed from Arsenal, once and for all.